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U.S. Drone Missile Attacks Arouse Anger In Pakistan

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U.S. Drone Missile Attacks Arouse Anger In Pakistan

Middle East

U.S. Drone Missile Attacks Arouse Anger In Pakistan

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Until you visit it's hard to sense just how deeply many Pakistanis resent U.S. drone strikes in their territory, even though those strikes are intended to target militants. An attack last week reportedly killed at least 40 people. Some were militants, but most were described as tribal elders. Pakistan's government and its military responded with a rare rebuke of the United States. And some tribal elders have declared what they call a jihad on the U.S.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Islamabad.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Demonstrations erupted across the country one day after the drone attack that killed dozens at what Pakistan now says was a peaceful meeting to settle a mining dispute.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Crowd: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: The friend of America is our traitor, shout these demonstrators in Islamabad, an apparent reference to their own government that has publicly deplored the attacks, while secretly approving them.

The drone attack in question occurred just 24 hours after Pakistan's courts freed jailed CIA contractor Raymond Davis following the payment of two million dollars in blood money to the families of the two men Davis killed. Many Pakistanis were deeply frustrated by Davis's release and viewed the drone attack a day later as salt poured on wounds and evidence of U.S. disdain.

A growing number has the sense that the U.S. is taking them for granted. Imran Khan, former cricket player turned politician, appealed to that sentiment in the large rally in Islamabad.

Mr. IMRAN KHAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: If we want to live like human beings then we will have to fight for our rights and speak for those innocent people who are killed daily, Khan says. Unless we protest the killing of a Pakistani, unless we confront injustice, nobody will respect us, he says.

The U.S. has been conducting a covert program using unmanned drones to target militants in Pakistan since 2004. According to the Long War Journal, an authoritative website, the large majority of the 2,000 killed since 2006 were from the Taliban, al-Qaida and affiliated groups. That's scant comfort for Resham Khan. We found him at a hospital in Islamabad.

A shepherd from North Waziristan, a region of mountains and neglect, Khan is a now a psychiatric patient, suffering extreme depression. He can barely mumble his name. Resham's brother Mulaqat sits on the bed beside him and says his brother's decline began with a drone strike last summer.

Mr. MULAQAT KHAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Resham was two miles from the strike, but his two cousins were killed. Not long afterwards, he says, Resham became incoherent. By October he stopped talking. He stopped eating. Mulaqat says his devout brother even stopped praying.

A doctor who practiced in North Waziristan said that 70 to 80 percent of patients came to him not with physical maladies but depression and anxiety.

There are shootings, curfews and uncertainty because of the Taliban and the drones, he says. The doctor who asked not to be identified says there is collective depression.

Rahim-ullah Wazir, a shopkeeper, lives in Miran Shah, the main city of North Waziristan, a no-go zone for Western journalists. We reached him by phone.

Mr. RAHIM-ULLAH WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: The mere sound of drones creates panic, Wazir says. People can't sleep. The rich with property and businesses have left. They fear being suspected as informants for the U.S., Wazir says and adds, hundreds have been executed as spies. Their bodies lay unclaimed in the streets for days.

Resident Rahim-ullah Wazir says, If anyone thinks that people here are happy over the drone strikes, they are foolish.

Mr. WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: In fact, he says, the drones are fomenting hatred against the government and turning the people against America. We are killed by drones, he says, and then labeled as terrorists.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

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